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Airport screeners don't have bargaining rights, labor board rules

Airport security screeners do not have collective bargaining rights, the Federal Labor Relations Authority ruled Tuesday.

The decision is a major setback for the American Federation of Government Employees, which has been trying for the past several months to organize screeners across the country.

In January, Transportation Security Administrator James Loy blocked screeners from collective bargaining, saying that bargaining "is not compatible with the flexibility required to wage the war against terrorism."

AFGE asked the labor authority to overturn Loy's decision. The union argued that when Congress created TSA it gave employees rights similar to those enjoyed by workers at the Federal Aviation Administration, including collective bargaining.

David Zaiger, head of the FLRA's Boston region, disagreed. In a 34-page decision, he said Loy was well within the law to limit the union's negotiating rights.

Quoting extensively from congressional records, Zaiger said it is clear that "Congress intended to exempt the agency from the duty to bargain over conditions of employment of security screeners."

AFGE President Bobby Harnage vowed to continue the battle, saying the union will file a petition for review in federal court within the next few weeks. He suggested that politics played a role in the FLRA's ruling.

"It is not surprising that the regional director took a pro-administration view," Harnage said in a statement. "After all, the FLRA regional director serves at the will of the FLRA's general counsel, who is appointed by the president. This is an issue for the court to decide. An unbiased, independent decision on an issue as critical as this can only be resolved at the judicial level."

TSA officials did not return a call requesting comment.

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